Swan is consistently mentioned as one of the best brunch spots in the city. And there are regularly long line-ups to match this reputation. But with a little online research it seems there is a recent consensus among diners that the food and service has become hit or miss.
Nonetheless the various online reviews and comments often end on a high note with a fervent recommendation that comes back to the ambiance. Rightly so - Swan is one of Toronto's most charming restaurants with its '50s diner-style retro decor. I went in on a mission to discover the truth. Would teak wood, cozy leather booths and aborite tables be enough to woo my friends and I over?
Saturday 2pm. No lineup but the place is packed including someone at every barstool (I get the feeling that the semblance of having regular patron prestige makes sitting at the bar in hot demand at Swan).
Our hot coffee and sweetened-just-right fresh ice tea arrives promptly. Service is quick and attentive.
Before delving into our greasy brunch we decided to split an arugula salad to start, with a sherry lemon vinaigrette, slivered pears and goat cheese for $9. This was really, really tasty; simple and light.
Satisfied with the initial healthy choice, I go straight for the no-protein no-nutrients bread-on-bread French toast ($9). And that's about all I know I'm getting into because the menu provides no description. The French toast arrives sprinkled in icing sugar and covered in a tart raspberry coulis with a melon and orange slice on the side. Off the bat I'd be quick to judge that I prefer covered in chocolate or stuffed with cream cheese, but the fruit drizzle is more than enough to satisfy.
The huevos rancheros comes with a black bean tortilla, avocado salsa, sour cream and two eggs over easy ($11). At first glance: awesomesauce. But a few bites in we realize it's ice cold so we send it back. The second attempt comes out quickly and is hot all the way through. However it was in a word bland; far from huevos rancheros' typically high standards.
So this review is going to end like most of the others. Swan could up the consistency but the prices are right and the ambiance delightful so in my books this nostalgic little diner can keep its landmark status for a go-to brunch on West Queen West.
Writing and photos by Megan Leahy. Interior photo by Tanja-Tiziana Burdi.